Cain and Abel were raised in the same home and environment by the same parents, but we see differences between them. Abel offered a pleasing sacrifice that was received by the Lord, while Cain's displeasing sacrifice was not. How did their sacrifices differ?
The Lord holds each of us accountable to present ourselves and our gifts to Him in humility. It isn't a magic spell or a certain set of words but the inward attitude of the heart that determines whether the offering is acceptable.
Let's read the account in Genesis chapter 4. "Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, 'I have acquired a man from the Lord.' Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell" (vv.1-5).
The story continues: Cain killed his brother, Abel, and the Lord sent Cain away. When we read this passage we wonder, What made Abel's offering acceptable when Cain's was not? Thankfully, we have Scripture to help us understand. Hebrews 11:4 says, "By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks." We read in Jude 1:11 and 1 John 3:12 that Cain was envious of his brother and that he was "of the wicked one," while Abel's actions were righteous. The issue was not the offering itself but the attitude behind the offering.
"For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise" (Ps. 51:16-17).
Cain and Abel came from the same upbringing, but they understood the worship of God differently. We as Christians from many different backgrounds can come together through God's Word and worship Him in the way that is acceptable to His heart. It isn't based on what we've done, where we've been, or where we're going. It is based on the character of God and the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, which enables us to worship Him for who He is.
Scripture tells us to worship in "spirit and truth" (John 4:24). The truth comes from what we know and believe about God: that He is holy and just and worthy of all glory (see Rev. 4:11). We also believe that Jesus Christ has cleansed our hearts by His blood (see Heb. 9:14) and that through Him we can boldly come and present ourselves to God as a living sacrifice (see Rom. 12:1). We must offer worship to Him from a humble and contrite heart, for He is worthy to be praised.
Let's put this into practice:
- Gather your Bible, pen, and paper.
- Turn to Psalm 100 (this is one of many psalms focused on praise and worship; you can find more Scriptures on this topic by doing a concordance search for praise, glory, worship, etc.).
- Open up your time in prayer to God, confessing your sins to Him and asking for a pure heart.
- Read the passage. Then list the praiseworthy attributes of God and what He has done.
- Write down something God has done in your life that is worthy of praise.
- Offer up worship through spoken word, writing, or singing a song of praise to God.
"O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise" (Ps. 51:15).
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